Connemara is set for a major tourism boost with the announcement that €1.8m is to pumped into a new initiative for the region.
Plans for the Wild Atlantic Way were announced by Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring, this week. It will be Ireland’s first long-distance driving route for tourists, and the idea emulates the successs of planned driving routes such as the Great Ocean Road in Australia and the Garden Route in South Africa.
The 1,400km route will go from Donegal to West Cork, and aims to draw more tourists to the west of Ireland by linking destinations and attractions together under a single theme.
Minister Ring confirmed the first phase of the project will take place in Connemara.
Speaking at the launch in the Connemara Coast Hotel, he said the project would bring a boost to the region.
“The Wild Atlantic Way will open up the whole of the west coast to visitors. It will be a way to entice visitors off the beaten track and help them to discover new areas of the west coast,” he said.
“I am delighted to announce that €1.8 million has been assigned to the first phase pilot project here in Connemara. The area was chosen because of its current popularity as a destination for self-drive visitors, particularly from France and Germany, and because it lies midway along the route.
“More and more visitors to Ireland are taking charge of their own holidays. They want to set their own route, and choose their own itinerary. The Wild Atlantic Way will offer them this choice thanks to the wide range of road loops, maps, online applications, and brochures.”
The project has been developed over the last six months between Failte Ireland and the Galway County Council, along with a dedicated steering group comprising Udaras na Gaeltachta, GMIT, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and key members of the tourism industry.
The group has devised a plan to improve the driving experience for visitors, including new signage, orientation points, and a network of 19 delivery points. Galway County Council will implement the plan in the next year.
Connemara a ‘natural choice’
Fine Gael TD for Galway West, Sean Kyne, said Connemara was a natural choice to begin this initiative.
“The selection of Connemara is an indication of the esteem in which the region’s natural beauty is held. The spectacular landscape, which is internationally renowned, made it the natural choice for the first phase of the Atlantic Way which will eventually encompass a driving route of 1,400 km stretching from West Cork to Donegal,” he said.
“The comprehensive plan arrived at by the various organisations working together will further enhance the tourism industry in Connemara which is an integral part of the local economy. Defining and mapping extensive driving routes will attract larger numbers of tourists to the region who will then avail of the high quality services, such as accommodation and dining, that Connemara has to offer. Without doubt other areas along the west coast will follow that lead.”